Fountains of Wayne
Sky Full of Holes
[Rating: 3 stars]
Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger established themselves five albums ago as power-pop-meisters, jointly ruling a land where guitars jangle, hooks grow on trees, no rhyme is too clever, and no schmoe’s story is too sad to celebrate in song. Does the fact that Fountains of Wayne can be counted on to deliver a solid album’s worth of smart, Raymond Carver-esque lyrics and sturdy pop melodies mean they have gotten predictable, or simply effortlessly skilled at their craft?
Fans might lean toward the latter, while more casual listeners may find that even the catchy, well-played material here seems blandly familiar, like songs conceived for a movie soundtrack. Collingwood’s nasal vocals–part charming limitation, part annoying affectation–can wear thin, even when sweetened by pristine guitar arrangements and perfect backing harmonies.
Still, some tracks here rise above the pretty tedium. The single “Someone’s Gonna Break Your Heart” sports a classic “oh-oh-whuh-oh” singalong chorus and irresistibly textured verse. (Collingwood’s voice here even betrays some passion.) “Richie and Ruben,” about a pair of enthusiastic but inept potheads whose many entrepreneurial schemes have failed (“They’re out of their minds/Don’t give them a dime…Where did the money go?”) might have been an early solo Paul Simon song were the references not so up to date. “Action Hero,” while no great revelation melodically, reads well as poetry, casting a regular Joe as a modern day Walter Mitty racing against time toward no particular destination. The sad, stately, mostly acoustic “Cemetery Guns” (a line from the chorus gives the album its title) obliquely addresses military funerals without lapsing into pathos, and contains some of the most inspired and straight-faced lyrics on the album.
While it closes the album on a somber note, it also suggests a slightly less comfortable template that the quartet may want to explore in depth on further releases.